Ohio and Michigan’s roadways can be hazardous places. Road construction, weather-related impacts, and local wildlife are just a few potential threats to drivers. However, in many cases, some of the most dangerous hazards are present within the vehicle itself—distracted drivers. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving caused over 2,800 traffic deaths in a recent year, plus numerous injuries and potential penalties and compensation for the injured.

As a result, the National Safety Council has made October Distracted Driving Awareness month. To assist the NSC and NHTSA with their efforts to reduce the number of injuries and deaths this year, we have compiled this distracted driving laws resource for our clients in Michigan and Ohio.

Distracted Driving Laws In Ohio

According to the state of Ohio, distracted driving consists of participating in a non-driving activity that results in the driver’s attention being diverted from the road, increasing the risk of a crash. These activities can include eating while driving to talking on the phone or adjusting the radio—although the most cited contributor to distracted driving is texting. In 2018, distracted driving caused more accidents in Ohio than driving while intoxicated.

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Currently, texting and driving laws in Ohio are subject to primary enforcement (where an officer can pull over a driver seen texting) and went into effect in 2012; this misdemeanor will remain on the driver’s driving record and likely increase insurance rates. Other activities, such as talking on the phone or eating while driving, will not draw penalties unless they’re affecting driving and cause the driver to break other traffic laws. However, drivers under 18 cannot use any electronic device, even if it is hands-free.

Drivers violating a distracted driving law in Ohio are subject to a $150 fine, with an additional penalty of 60 days suspended license for teen violators. Fines can reach up to $300 and carry penalties of up to one year’s suspension. Finally, a $100 penalty applies more than the other penalties if drivers are distracted; the penalty can be waived if they agree to a distracted driving course.

Distracted Driving Laws in Michigan

Michigan driving laws take care to delineate three distinct types of driving distractions, including:

  • Manual distractions forcing drivers’ hands away from the wheel, like eating or changing the radio
  • Cognitive distractions removing attention from the road, such as conversations or daydreaming
  • Visual distractions like looking at a phone or GPS

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Currently, Michigan’s distracted driving laws focus on using cell phones and mostly avoid statutes enforcing other driving distractions. However, if eating or using a GPS causes a driver to break other traffic laws, secondary enforcement penalties are in place. Texting while driving is illegal throughout the state, while handheld cell phone usage is only prohibited for commercial vehicle drivers and those under 18. However, legislation is in the works that would prohibit handheld cell phone usage for all Michigan drivers.

If a driver receives a distracted driving citation in Michigan, penalties begin at $100. For a second or subsequent violation, penalties begin at $200. However, for those drivers who hold level 1 or level 2 licenses, civil fines of $240 apply. In addition, certain municipalities may have stricter laws and additional penalties.

Avoid Injury and Penalties—Drive Distraction Free

Driving while distracted can lead to penalties, fines, and the loss of a driver’s license. Worse, distracted driving can cause accidents, injuries, and even death—making driving distraction-free a necessary precaution any responsible driver should take. If you or a loved one have experienced injuries due to a distracted driver, discuss your situation with the experienced personal injury attorneys at Gallon, Takacs, and Boissoneault—contact us online or call 419-843-6663.